10 Fair Winds

The forest path was calm as usual, the area brightly lit by a full moon. On this otherwise seldom traveled path, two young men were haphazardly jumping from tree to tree as they made their way to the nearby town, doing their best to hold a conversation.

"So, with today's technology, we can perfectly simulate the physics of the real world, right? But we experience that all the time whether we pay attention to it or not, and the point of a game is to have fun. Well, boring old normal physics isn't all that fun, because normally you wouldn't be able to jump from tree to tree like this."

Diz nodded his head in response, seeming to understand where Zack was going with this explanation. "Right, so while ordinarily we're subject to the usual laws of physics we would experience in real life, like when we're casually walking or even running, there are certain triggers to alter those rules to allow for crazy stunts that'd otherwise be impossible."

"That's right, you catch on fast my friend. Now-" suddenly, Zack's foot was caught by the bottom end of the branch he jumped to, and he slipped, the bottom of his chin hitting it hard before he fell to the ground below, landing on the ground with a loud thud, the beast head having been flung forward a fair distance forward.

Having landed properly himself, Diz jumped down and landed with a similarly loud thud, though unlike Zack, he had landed on his two feet. Before checking on Zack, he was quick to get the beast head to ensure it wouldn't despawn.

"You alright? That looked painful as hell."

His tongue radiated with an intense pain, and he could taste iron. Zack remained motionless before spitting out a tooth, a tense frown on his face.

"Ah damn, that'th perma damage until I die or get a proper conthumable to fix it." He shook his head before continuing.

"It lookth like my first fifty copper is going to be thpent to avoid looking like a fool in front of potentially important NPCth."

Getting up with the help of Diz's outstretched hand, Zack dusted the back of his pants off of the dirt that got all over them, and took off his shirt to shake the dirt off of it as well.

"Lookth like it wath a good call giving you the makethift bag." He then consumed three berries to restore some health and subdue the pain he felt, the once bitten through tongue now healed.

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"Ah man, pain really doeth hit differently when you aren't pumped full of adrenaline," Zack said, wiping the blood off the bottom of his lip. He then put his shirt back on and dusted it once more. Diz then handed Zack the bear head again after that, and the two continued walking.

Soon after, a watch tower became visible in the distance. "You think we'll get questioned by the town guards?" Diz asked with a whisper. "Probably, but thince we've thpawned on this land, the interaction will likely count towardth the character development objective." Zack replied in response, eyeing the watchtower with an expectant gaze, his poker face betraying the unease he felt.

As the two got closer, they heard a loud whistle, followed by the sound of metal clanking, a figure coming down the stairs of the tower.

When the figure got closer, they could make out a young teenage boy, a player tag absent from the top of his head. "Good evening journeymen hunters, back in town to sell some game?"

The two got a notification, their character development completion guage filling in by ten percent. "Yes, me and my friend here have just finished hunting a Viper Bear and wish to find a shop," Diz replied in response to the young guard's question, unknowingly saving Zack some face by not letting the guard hear his new-found lisp.

Because of this, Diz's character development completion guage raised by another ten percent while Zack's raised by only five percent.

"Wow, you two must be well equipped to fight such a ferocious beast. You likely had some high quality potions if I had to make an assumption, seeing as your friend doesn't have a scar beneath that torn shirt."

Zack wordlessly nodded in response, satisfying the young guard's curiosity, earning Zack another five percent to match the ten that Diz got.

"Anyway, I know you're probably tired of hearing this from other guards, but as you know, I have to follow procedure." He then cleared his throat and began reciting the laws of the land, intentionally deepening his voice and straightening his posture to convey the seriousness behind the message.

"Here on the border between the wilds and the Town of Fair Winds, you must leave behind any ill-mannerisms and act neighbourly, lest you harm the innocence of the young or upset their mothers. Although you may enter and leave free of charge, you will be taxed extra in places of business without a citizen's sigil. Magic use is permitted, but may be banned within a place of business at the discretion of the business owner. Violence of any kind is not permitted in public spaces, and those caught fighting in such areas will be punished both with a fine and a day within the town jail. However, those found acting in self defence may walk away freely."

With the laws of the land recited, the young guard relaxed his posture. "With my duty fulfilled, I bid you farewell and wish you the best of luck with your trades and travels." He then walked back to the tower as the two men began traveling further.

Now that they had passed the town's border, trees had become less common, and were slowly being replaced by farmland as they continued walking towards the town to ask for directions. The dirtpath too, was becoming cleaner as they continued. "I'm going to athk where I can find an apothecary ath thoon ath pothible, thith lithp ith a pain in the ath."

Diz chuckled, saying "Careful now, remember, you have to leave behind ill-mannerisms and act neighborly here." Zack sighed, he was an expert at curbing his foul mouthed tendencies when needed, but he wanted Valerio to embody his real self, not the person he portrayed when he had to go to college. He nodded his head, saying "Yeah, I know," in a subdued tone.

After a short while of travel, houses became more numerous and they began seeing fellow players along with NPCs casually walking about. Soon, the dirt path began transitioning into a stone path, and the two soon found themselves in front of a large fountain.

"Alright, I'm gonna ask around about where I can find a place to sell our stuff while you go look for an apothecary, let's meet back here in like six minutes." Zack nodded, and the two went in separate directions. As Zack walked around, he thought about what he should do.

'While I could toil around like an uninvited ex at a wedding, asking someone would probably be quicker. The real question is whether or not I should ask an NPC or another player. . . Seeing as my character development completion bar didn't go up when I interacted with Diz, it's probably a safe bet to talk to a player.'

Quickly, Zack walked up to the first person he saw, a thin and fair skinned blond man with a book strapped to his belt. Zack gave a polite wave before gesturing him to come closer to so he could whisper

"Hey, lithen, do you know where I can find an apothecary? I buthted my tooth and don't want my temporary lithp to mess with my character development objective."

The man nodded before pointing towards the direction Diz had gone in. "I saw an open one down that way, but I imagine a missing tooth might cost you extra, I've already heard a few people complain about the varying prices between potions." Zack frowned, wondering how pricey the apothecary could be to illicit complaints from players.

Noticing the frown, the man spoke up again. "If you go to the bank -" he said, pointing down the road in the opposite direction. "-you might be able to exchange some bills for the copper you need, if you really care that much. I don't imagine they cost too much yet, seeing as the game only released today, but I could be wrong."

Zack nodded before thanking him, and began walking, wondering if he'd run into Diz on the way there.

As he walked, his eyes wandered, eyeing a handful of erotically proportioned female player characters. They didn't hold his attention though, as he found Diz talking to one of them. Walking over, he heard them discussing about a dungeon nearby.

However, his attention was claimed by the character development completion guage raising by ten percent abruptly.

Looking around, Zack quickly noticed a well-dressed man talking to a guard while pointing at him not too far away, an astonished expression clear as day on the well-dressed man, and one of curiosity on the guard's face.

He couldn't discern what they were talking about, the bustling streets of this part of town assaulting his ears as he attempted to hone in on their conversation.

The two failed to notice his gaze, and Zack was quick to approach Diz, wanting to avoid their attention and quickly fix his lisp.

With a tap to his shoulder, Diz turned around and chuckled "Ah, this here is the friend I was talking about earlier, Sarah."

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